Edward Norton, who starred as Bruce Banner / the Hulk in 2008’s The Incredible Hulk, will not reprise his role as the character in the upcoming The Avengers, Marvel announced. The studio’s president Kevin Feige made the official statement [HitFix]:
“We have made the decision to not bring Ed Norton back to portray the title role of Bruce Banner in the Avengers. Our decision is definitely not one based on monetary factors, but instead rooted in the need for an actor who embodies the creativity and collaborative spirit of our other talented cast members. The Avengers demands players who thrive working as part of an ensemble, as evidenced by Robert, Chris H, Chris E, Sam, Scarlett, and all of our talented casts. We are looking to announce a name actor who fulfills these requirements, and is passionate about the iconic role in the coming weeks.”
The harsh wording resulted in a quick rebuttal from Norton’s agent and finally a polite and classy statement from Edward Norton himself. Click over the jump for those plus news on a rumor that has Joaquin Phoenix taking on the role.
Statement from Norton’s agent Brian Swardstrom of WWE [HitFix]:
“This offensive statement from Kevin Feige at Marvel is a purposefully misleading, inappropriate attempt to paint our client in a negative light. Here are the facts: two months ago, Kevin called me and said he wanted Edward to reprise the role of Bruce Banner in The Avengers. He told me it would be his fantasy to bring Edward on stage with the rest of the cast at ComiCon and make it the event of the convention. When I said that Edward was definitely open to this idea, Kevin was very excited and we agreed that Edward should meet with Joss Whedon to discuss the project. Edward and Joss had a very good meeting (confirmed by Feige to me) at which Edward said he was enthusiastic at the prospect of being a part of the ensemble cast. Marvel subsequently made him a financial offer to be in the film and both sides started negotiating in good faith. This past Wednesday, after several weeks of civil, uncontentious discussions, but before we had come to terms on a deal, a representative from Marvel called to say they had decided to go in another direction with the part. This seemed to us to be a financial decision but, whatever the case, it is completely their prerogative, and we accepted their decision with no hard feelings.
We know a lot of fans have voiced their public disappointment with this result, but this is no excuse for Feige’s mean spirited, accusatory comments. Counter to what Kevin implies here, Edward was looking forward to the opportunity to work with Joss and the other actors in the Avengers cast, many of whom are personal friends of his. Feige’s statement is unprofessional, disingenuous and clearly defamatory. Mr. Norton talent, tireless work ethic and professional integrity deserve more respect, and so do Marvel’s fans.
Statement from Edward Norton [Edward Norton’s Official Facebook page]:
Moving on, there’s a rumor that Joaquin Phoenix may be cast in the role. Devin Faraci of CHUD is reporting that the actor, who has been a bit on the reclusive side of late, has been offered the role by Marvel:
Reliable sources tell me that Marvel has already put out an offer, and the actor they’ve spoken to is Joaquin Phoenix, believe it or not. Phoenix is taking time to mull over the offer and the bigger implications – Marvel may yet resurrect the Hulk franchise – but Marvel hopes to have him in place by Comic Con, which is when they want to announce their new Bruce Banner.
This casting news should be treated as a rumor for now, as CHUD reports they were “unable to get solid confirmations or denials.”
The Avengers writer Joss Whedon is expected to be at Comic-Con later this month to unveil the cast and potentially be announced as director. It’s possible we’ll also learn who’ll be replacing Norton there should Phoenix ultimately decide to take the part if this rumor pans out to be true.